Ballyhoura Development CLG has commissioned Fingleton White to carry out a feasibility study for a community owed anaerobic digestion (AD) project for the Ballyhoura region.

Europe has over 18,000 AD plants, however only a handful of these are found in Ireland, due to a lack of government support to date.

If Ireland is to meet its GHG reduction targets, it will need to support, incentivise and utilise green technologies such as AD. This is particularly relevant for the Ballyhoura region, which is home to a world leading agri-food sector.

But what exactly is anaerobic digestion? In short, AD is a process where feedstocks such as animal slurries, food processing sludges and sustainable forage crops can be converted into useful renewable energy in the form of biomethane gas. Through this process, high quality organic fertiliser is also produced.  Rather than  releasing methane into the atmosphere naturally, the biomethane can be utilised as an efficient and versatile renewable gas energy to decarbonise thermal demand in processing and manufacturing, and transport. 

Ireland’s Climate Action Plan requires all sectors and regions to be proactive with energy planning in order to reduce greenhouse gas emissions (GHG). The agriculture sector in Ireland is responsible for more than 35% of national GHG emissions; produced predominantly by livestock, nitrogen fertiliser and manure management.

Farmers and other agri-food stakeholders are central to addressing climate change in Ireland, by adopting sustainable farm practices and land management:  AD provides a framework for doing this by means of a well proven and mature technology.  Through provision of sustainable agri feedstock and use of the digestate produced as bio fertiliser,  GHG emissions can be greatly reduced since the AD cycle has net zero emissions associated with it.   Additionally, the collection of feedstocks allows for better management, treatment and control of agri-resources as feedstock, eliminating the  ammonia levels and pollution associated with slurry management in environmentally sensitive areas of air quality, water quality, biodiversity  and protected habitats.

The gas network transports over 30% of the energy consumed in this country. AD offers excellent potential for its decarbonisation via biomethane production and injection into the gas grid. AD also creates opportunities and potential for many wider  environmental and economic benefits, including local resource recovery, contribution to the resilience and sustainability of the agricultural and agri-food network, the decarbonisation of the energy and agricultural sectors and the creation of local jobs. AD technology, therefore, has potential to contribute to the circular bioeconomy and  agriculture  that will support a sustainable  local rural economy, aiding in diversification, development and achieving Ballyhoura CLG’s mission of driving positive sustainable social, environmental, and economic change.

During this period of increasing energy uncertainty, AD can contribute to energy independence and security of supply, from both sustainable production of indigenous renewable gas as well as ensuring a reliable supply of organic fertilisers to local farms.

Biomethane is a unique renewable energy source that meets the technical standards and can be easily stored in the network and produced near consumption areas of gas demand. Ballyhoura is well connected to the national gas network, with a local biomethane central grid injection point in Mitchelstown, currently under development. Historically, AD projects benefit from the collaboration, co-operation and shared responsibility of multiple stakeholders in the community, and so along with  government supports this project could thrive in the Ballyhoura region, ensuring best practices, best available technologies, promoting sustainable food production, future proofing the agricultural sector and decarbonising food processing and manufacturing practices.

The feasibility study will be taking place over the coming months and we are keen to engage with individuals and organisations working in the agricultural sector in the region.  If you would like to participate in this preliminary feasibility study, please contact us.